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15 October 2014updated 20 Aug 2021 8:00am

Lord Freud’s slip is the least of this government’s appalling attitude to disabled people

The welfare minister's remarks about people not being "worth" the minimum wage is a small example of this government's persistently appalling attitude towards the disabled.

By Anoosh Chakelian

During today’s bout of PMQs, the Labour leader criticised David Cameron for his welfare minister Lord Freud’s comments about disabled people and the minimum wage.

At a fringe event during Conservative party conference, Freud was recorded in an audio file passed on to the website PoliticsHome making some controversial remarks about how disabled people are “not worth the full wage”.

Here’s the quote, in response to a question asked by a Tory councillor:

 . . . You make a really good point about the disabled. Now I had not thought through, and we have not got a system for, you know, kind of going below the Minimum Wage.

But we do have . . . You know, Universal Credit is really useful for people with the fluctuating conditions who can do some work – go up and down – because they can earn and get . . . and get, you know, bolstered through Universal Credit, and they can move that amount up and down.

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Now, there is a small . . . there is a group, and I know exactly who you mean, where actually as you say they’re not worth the full wage and actually I’m going to go and think about that particular issue, whether there is something we can do nationally, and without distorting the whole thing, which actually if someone wants to work for £2 an hour, and it’s working can we actually . . . 

Ed Miliband appeared to call for the DWP minister to stand down, telling the PM: “Surely someone holding those views can’t possibly stay in his [Cameron’s] government?”

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Clearly ruffled by this emerging story he hadn’t been fully briefed about, Cameron insisted “those are not the views of the government”. He then fell back on the approach he used when referring to the NHS in his conference speech, citing his own experience caring for a disabled child, his late son Ivan. He said he wouldn’t take lectures “from anyone about looking after disabled people”.

Watch the exchange here:

Video: LabourList

However, this Freudian slip is just a minute example of how generally appalling this government’s attitude has been towards disabled people. The most prominent examples are: 

Sadly, Freud’s comments revealed today should come as no surprise.